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Last month I acknowledged the positive response from our citizens to Covid Alert Levels 4 and 3.  Although the experience required considerable sacrifices of all of us, and hardship for many, overall New Zealanders reacted responsibly and with a shared sense of purpose re-adjusting our lives and living in isolation. 

When Parliament reconvened last month I paid tribute to all my constituents for their contribution to our collective effort to combat Covid, and especially to the “essential workers”, struggling small business owners, public servants who were inundated with requests for help, those who worked from home, and those who took care of neighbours and those who were vulnerable. I spoke of my pride in our community and my appreciation of our “Kiwi Spirit”.

A memory I will long cherish of the lockdown was receiving large numbers of delightful pictures from Waikato school children who thanked “essential workers” for their efforts in my regional art competition.  Two winning entries, from 8 year old Ella Hu of Te Rapa School, and 10 year old Taniora Daniels of Koromatua School, illustrate this column.

  By Ella Hu, 8, Te Rapa School

  By Taniora Daniels, 10, Koromatua School

My electorate office continued to operate throughout the lockdown, and we have never been busier. I apologise to any who were kept waiting because of the huge demands we were coping with. I am so grateful to my Electorate Agents and Executive Assistant for their outstanding commitment and assistance to many constituents, and it was such a privilege to be able to help so many people with often challenging needs.

My staff and I were greatly assisted by modern technology.  However, many of our senior citizens are not familiar with computers and often feel at a disadvantage as a consequence. In contacting senior constituents during the lockdown to ascertain if they required help, we discovered that many of those without family assistance or technological proficiency experienced difficulty with paying accounts.  Many of our senior citizens felt vulnerable as it is their usual practice to pay bills by cheque or cash from their New Zealand Superannuation.  I have been advocating for banks and agencies to continue enabling and accepting the use of cheques for those who rely on them. It makes no sense to phase them out prematurely and many charities will suffer if donations are no longer possible by cheque payments.

Apart from the long wait for an on-line ‘slot’ at the supermarkets, many were unable to purchase groceries via this process and were, therefore, greatly disadvantaged. Some struggled with their enforced separation from family and friends, especially on Mother's Day and when missing significant events such as funerals and family birthdays.   Many lamented being unable to attend church or organisations which were part of their usual weekly routines.  Since we came out of lockdown I have pushed as hard as I can for churches to be able to resume (observing physical distancing) as normally as possible.  The restriction of 10 worshippers makes no sense.  I’m glad we achieved a concession in respect of funerals after applying a lot of pressure.

Along with the inability for some to pay bills, I am also aware that some of our senior citizens faced such challenges as accessing hearing aid batteries, the ‘flu vaccination and medications, and that these difficulties added to their feeling of a loss of independence.  I am grateful that many neighbours helped people in these circumstances and I am also aware that many families ensured that their parents’ needs and well-being were provided for. 

As I said in my April column, “we are never too old to learn something new, and keeping our minds active and pursuing further study or training is a valuable way of staving off a range of age-related conditions and ailments”.  We are fortunate in the Hamilton West Electorate to have some excellent courses offered through the adult and community education at Fraser High School.  Many seniors have improved their technological ability through such classes (some of which are also provided by Age Concern at no cost) while others have had helpful assistance from family.

Despite the problems some suffered through being unable to make payments or order goods on-line, seniors in my electorate have mostly reported coping well with Alert Levels 4 and 3.  Thank you to those family members who helped their parents and neighbours. Your efforts are appreciated by our wider community.

May you all continue to remain well in the days ahead, especially as we also now work together to tackle the enormous cost of the Covid experience, and strive to save industries, jobs and livelihoods. Please continue to request our help if you need any assistance or a sympathetic ear.

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